FEATURE pt1 - City takes steps towards a green future open to all - Year-long trial will see traffic ban... but reactions are mixed
As a wheelchair user, Truro mayor Steven Webb said Boscawen Street was ‘not brilliant’, adding that you wouldn’t normally put disabled parking on slipper cobbles with a great big drain next to it... ‘it needs overhauling, with respect for the architectural history’ Photo Paul Williams
23rd June 2021
By Kirstie Newton
An ambitious new vision for Truro has been unveiled in the hope of making the city centre accessible to all parts of the community and a thriving place for the future.
The first phase of Truro’s Healthy Streets initiative involves an experimental 24- hour restriction on through traffic entering Boscawen Street from July 19, with access- only for emergency vehicles, buses, taxis, cycles, blue badge holders and for loading purposes.
The plan, which will be trialled for a year, has been devised by a steering group including representatives from Truro City Council, Truro BID and Cornwall Council. Its aim is to help to regenerate the city centre at the same time as increasing opportunities for walking, cycling and public transport use, and space for staging community events.
Detailed proposals for the experimental scheme are still being developed, but the current preferred option is for the area of carriageway used by permitted vehicles to be narrowed, creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists to use.
Existing disabled parking bays and loading bays will remain and, where impacted, will be replaced. The central traffic islands will remain in place for the present, with new benches and planters installed in key spots throughout the street to help create a vibrant and attractive space.
The existing restrictions on buses and other vehicles accessing Boscawen Street and surrounding roads between 11 am and 3pm were due to end on June 21 with the lifting of the final stage of the Covid lockdown restrictions. They will now continue to operate until July 18, with marshalls funded by Truro City Council and Truro BID in place to support them.
The following day, the new scheme will be introduced under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO), funded by Cornwall Council, enabling the new arrangements to be tested in practice before a decision is made on a permanent scheme.
Cllr Steven Webb, Mayor of Truro, said: “We have the widest street in Cornwall, and at the moment it’s a highway right through the city centre. Other towns have ring roads; ours goes through the centre. But to simply cut off buses, taxis and disabled drivers is not the right thing to do, because we have to provide an alternative way of getting people in and out of town efficiently. This may not be the answer, but it’s a starting position to get the conversation going, to include all groups and come up with a solution that will suit businesses, visitors, the disabled, the elderly and the youth – everyone.”
As a wheelchair user, Cllr Webb said Boscawen Street was “not brilliant”, adding: “You wouldn’t normally put disabled parking on slipper cobbles with a great big drain next to it... it needs overhauling, with respect for the architectural history.” But he added: “This is about cooperation. Cornwall Council, the business community, disability groups and taxi companies are all sitting around the same table and trying to find solutions. This will kick-start something. I will be down here on July 19 with my head above the parapet for people to tell me what they think, whether it’s to moan or give me ideas.”
Alun Jones, chairman of Truro Business Improvement District (BID), said: “Truro has a mix of national retailers and a great variety of independent shops. The central core is the starting point for the shopping experience, with customers working themselves out into the secondary locations via the opes, alleyways and mews. Boscawen Street is a vital part of that, but it is currently a traffic throughfare, which can affect the shopping experience.
“In previous surveys, 76% of businesses have expressed the view that their customers find the shopping experience more enjoyable when the streets are traffic-free. There is no question. It makes for a cleaner, safer experience. But we also recognise the need to maintain public transport in Truro’s central location.
“Any high street is having a tough time right now. It’s important people return they can stay at home and click online so easily, but we need them to go back to enjoying being in the high street. That’s why we need to provide the best environment we can.”
But Cllr Robert Nolan, who is on both Truro City and Cornwall Councils, described the scheme as “a messy compromise”, and said he had written to the Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Philip Desmond, asking him to look again. “As it stands the scheme won’t please anyone,” he said. “It’s good to hear the pedestrianisation of Boscawen Street will continue until July 18, but after that, Cornwall Council have decreed that the busses must return over 420 a day, many of which don’t even stop in Boscawen Street.
“The council has proposed a sort of chicane system which only allows one bus through at a time … The city council supported it, but only because Cornwall Council said the buses were going through, so it was this or back to normal.
“At busy times, buses are coming through at least every minute. That means they’ll be queuing at either end. Is that a good idea?” Regarding the 52 planters being used to restrict the width of the street, he asked: “Who will maintain these, and perhaps more importantly, who will move them when we want to open the street for Remembrance Day Parades or Christmas Markets?”
He added: “The loading bay outside Waterstones is being removed. How will they get delivery of their books? I support pedestrianisation, but appreciate there are objectors so we need full consultation on the way forward.”
Full details of the scheme will be published on the city council and Truro BID websites as soon as they are confirmed. You can find out more and share your views at www.letstalk.cornwall.gov.uk /healthy-streets-truro